5Q'S LARISSA MUEHLEDER FOUNDER OF MUEHLEDER : A Q&A BETWEEN WOMEN WHO'VE STARTED THEIR OWN BUSINESS
I first met Larissa Muehleder at a Brunch 'n Style event hosted by InStyle magazine's beauty editor, Alexis Bennett. What a fantastically chance event that was. We then went on to meet out and about at functions and small business events. We are two business women tooling around New York inspiring each other and others! Here is her fabulously informative 5 Q's:
1. Looking back on your first job, what skill did you use that you still use today?
I started by designing prom dresses for high school seniors and surrounding friends. As a teenager, if there was a difficult client, I would simply decide to no longer work with them. As time progressed, I learned that there is nothing more valuable than a returning customer. Being patient with your clients and providing them with the best experience possible is something that will reward you for years to come. They become your biggest supporters and your best free marketing resource when it comes to word of mouth referrals. A great skill to have is knowing how to retain clients by effectively communicating and making them feel truly cared for, because they are is essential.
2. Was there a defining moment that made you start your business?
When I realized doing custom work was very time consuming and also limiting to my creativity, because the desired piece was usually a magazine clipping of a celebrity in a dress, I decided it was time to start creating my own designs. I was lucky enough to jump right into it without overthinking because I already worked for myself full time.
However, there were defining moments that kept me going. As you can imagine, there are many challenges a new business owner will face, especially when you're in your first year or two with a level of success expectancy. When things became overwhelming and a bit discouraging I would ask myself two questions. Can you imagine doing anything else? Are you in a better place than you were this time, last year? Slow progress is better than no progress, especially when you are doing something you love and that belongs to you.
3. What was the first step you took to launch your brand?
In 2011, designed an 8 piece collection and would go from store to store in the New York metropolitan area asking to speak to the boutiques buyers. Even though they really liked the pieces, most stores would only offer to carry a young designer on consignment. Consignment is when they stock your products and pay you as it sells instead of paying upfront. This is a way they take advantage of new designers, because the selling opportunities are limited so you have no choice but to accept these terms. However, I still recommend working on consignment because it is a great way to start but be aware of the risk. Your product may be damaged or stained while on the sales floor or the boutique could have a reputation for paying it's designers late or not at all.
I realized that due to my lack of connections and industry experience, I needed a sales representative to get me in the door. In order to raise money I continued designing custom pieces and participating in college fashion shows in the east coast. With savings, and family loans, I signed a contract with a New York wholesale showroom that launched Muehleder into boutiques nationwide, including boutiques that had previously only offered to carry me on consignment.
4. What is the greatest lesson learned in your first year in business?
Plan your budget as if you had half as much as you actually do. I found that I am the most resourceful when I'm down to my last! The greatest lesson I've learned overall, would be to plan 3-5 years in advance in order to prepare your company to scale and grow. A business plan is essential.
5. What is your best piece of advice for your fellow Female Founder?
Firstly, always reach out and ask for assistance, advise, and guidance from people you respect and admire. If you don't know anyone in the field you're entering, it's time to get social! Reach out to people and don't be shy and please make sure you're question isn't already answered on google.
BONUS!!! Secondly, as soon as you can afford it, delegate. Hire people to do the things you aren't good at or that you are over qualified for.